We caught up with professional cyclist Tiffany Cromwell, a yearly participant in the COCC ride to get the lowdown on how she got into cycling, why she takes part in the COCC ride, what goes on during the event and her advice for future cycling enthusiasts. Read all in our Q&A below.
Do you remember your first bicycle?
I was pretty young, I think it was a Christmas present actually, it had training wheels, it was a pink Malvern Star, an Australian brand of bicycle. My first race bike was a Trek 1000 road bike, I got that when I was 12.
Who taught you to ride a bike?
My dad taught me to ride my first bicycle. We have always been a sporting family, so when I was young it was completely the norm to be outside playing, I grew up in the hills near Adelaide so we had a lot of outdoor space to play in. We’d often go on family bike rides, ride bikes at a local bmx park, or just use our bikes to go down to the local shop or see our friends in the neighbourhood.. I still remember the day we took off the training wheels, it was just outside my house, my dad would hold me to help keep my balance and then eventually he let go and I was off riding by myself.. We also often took our bikes on family holidays down the south coast and would ride them all day long, it was pretty awesome.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
That’s a tough one, there’s a few that are real highlights, probably one of my biggest wins was the Stage 4 Giro d'Italia Femminile, it’s one of the biggest stage races in women’s cycling. I’d also say representing my country at world championships and the Commonwealth Games.
One major highlight from that was when I was given the role as team road captain and helped my team mate win gold last year at the Gold Coast Games. I’d have to say there’s no greater pride that representing your country on the world stage.
What are your reasons for getting involved with COCC?
For me it's since I've been in and around Monaco, I’ve got to know the boys who started it from McLaren Constructions and heard about the great cause they were supporting - The Princess Charlene Foundation. I think water safety is so important. I grew up in a country where you learn to swim at a very young age, you kind of take it for granted, then you learn that adults and many less fortunate nations don’t have that swimming education and reflect, it’s such an important safety precaution. It can save your life. Working with water safety and sport is something I’m naturally drawn to helping. It’s also such a great way to get the community together in Monaco and have a great day out and a fun ride, from St. Tropez to Monaco – it’s one of the most beautiful rides around the Cote d’Azur that you can do.
Using three words can you describe COCC?
Community, fun and challenging.
What happens during the ride?
It’s a very social ride that's what's great about it, I see many of the Men and Women who don’t really ride much and every year, they build up for the COCC. For them, 140km is massive! There are many sponsored stops along the way where you can stop and refuel. They are great and many friends and family help out as volunteers at each of the stops, there’s normally a breakfast stop before Cannes and the famous beer stop at Ma Nolan’s in Nice before the last leg to Monaco along with a few refreshment stops scattered along the route. Some years they change the stops; sometimes there are lots of stops and sometimes fewer. Usually, there are three or four, so once every 30 to 40km there’s a chance to have a rest. At some of the bigger stops there’s a team giving massages and helping riders stretch out the body, the guys are generally from local gyms who work as trainers and osteopaths, just to loosen up those muscles once you’ve reached that 100km mark.
What do you take with you for the ride?
Normally I have one bottle with electrolyte mix and a bottle with water. In my pockets I have energy gels, maybe some bars. Sometimes I make my own snacks like banana bread. It’s great you have those stops on the COCC ride, but if you’re out riding on your own, particularly when training for the COCC, these are important things to take with you to keep your body fuelled, because if you don’t, you won’t make it to the end.
What’s the route like? Hilly or flat? What can new riders expect?
It’s a mix. In terms of rides around this area, it’s one of the flattest rides you could do. The first part is stunning! You go around the bay from St. Tropez to St. Raphael but then you hit the Esterels. That’s one of the most challenging parts, there’s a few small climbs around there, but it’s stunning – one of the most beautiful parts of the route. Once you get to Cannes it is quite flat until Cap d'Antibes where you find another few small climbs. After Antibes all the way to Nice it’s a lovely flat and fast section of the ride. From Nice to Monaco though it starts to get tough again with rolling climbs along the coast, you know the last climb up to Cap d’Ail can catch some people out but, then there’s a nice downhill ride into Monaco - I think everyone’s very happy to have that!
What is the welcome like at Stars ’n’ Bars at the finish line?
The welcome is amazing! The group is led into Monaco on a number of occasions by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco which is pretty special. Along with the main organisers of the event; Damian Crean, Terry Torrison, Mark ‘Thommo’ Thomas, just to name a few and everyone else in tow. As you arrive outside Stars ‘N’ Bars, everyone’s there, the families and partners of the riders, local media, sponsors, friends and a lot of the local Monaco community all there to greet everyone. There are smiles, and of course Champagne and Oysters. It’s a beautiful atmosphere, a true feeling of community and it’s all for a great cause!
What is the after-party at Slammers?
Mental! (laughs) They do a great job. They take over the street outside of Slammers with a BBQ, live band, the bar is flowing, there are speeches and honorary awards from the ride. HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco has made appearances and has helped present the awards and some years HSH Princess Charlene has joined too – there’s always a great atmosphere. Lots of food, lots of dancing, plenty of beer/drinks. Everyone’s enjoying letting their hair down and making some good memories with plenty of sore heads (and legs) following the next day.
What message do you want to give the young riders of today that want to be professionals?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and enjoy it while you’re young. It only becomes more serious with added pressure as you get older. So go out there and enjoy the sport for what it is and just go get it! Cycling is an amazing sport, it’s freedom, you get to see places you wouldn’t otherwise go to. Just have fun and enjoy it!